The class of 2021 is not the only group on campus adjusting to a new community — 39 new ladder faculty in the School of Arts and Sciences arrived on the Yale teaching scene this fall, and not all of them expected such a warm welcome.
“I would say that we have been invited to people’s homes more times here in one month than 11 years in Switzerland,” said economics professor Fabrizio Zilibotti, who came to Yale this fall from the University of Zurich with his wife Maria Saez-Marti, a senior lecturer in the Department of Economics.
This year’s hiring patterns skewed toward the sciences, said Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Tamar Gendler. She noted that between fall 2016 and fall 2017, the sciences grew by a net seven faculty, engineering and applied sciences grew by a net four faculty members, the humanities grew by a net three faculty members and the social sciences grew by a net three faculty members.
None of the 16 new faculty members interviewed said their adjustment to Yale has been difficult. For the majority of them, Yale students played an influential role in shaping their positive experiences so far.
“I hate to sound like I’m just drinking the Kool-aid and being pollyannish, but before I came to Yale, across the board, so many people I know … said that the single best part of Yale was the students, mostly the undergrads,” said anthropology and African American Studies professor Aimee Cox, who most recently taught at Fordham University and before that Rutgers-Newark. “I’ve never had such reciprocity in the classroom, where I really can genuinely feel like we’re caught in an intellectual project.”
Political science professor Ian Turner, who previously taught at Texas A&M University, said he has enjoyed teaching so far “almost entirely” because of the new students he has met at Yale. Likewise, anthropology professor Lisa Messeri said she has enjoyed her students’ willingness to participate in offbeat classroom discussions.
Others were impressed by the willingness of students to take classes taught by professors with whom they are unfamiliar.
“I’m teaching a class this semester called ‘The Rise of China,’ which is about China’s emergence on the world stage … and in a sense, it’s the easiest thing in the world to teach,” political science professor Dan Mattingly ’04 said. “You go in there and there are already 50 plus students — it’s nothing to do with me because I’ve never taught here before and nobody knows who I am — and they’re super curious and ready to go, and that’s not the case in a lot of other places.”
Faculty hires also spoke glowingly of the generosity and kindness they have experienced in interactions with their new colleagues. History and law professor Samuel Moyn, who previously taught at Columbia for 13 years and at Harvard for three, said, “Yale has rolled out the welcome mat” at every level and that his new colleagues have helped both him and his family adjust to a “vibrant new community.”
Philosophy professor Robin Dembroff, who received a doctorate in philosophy from Princeton this year, said they already have a “solid support network” of faculty, students and administrators.
“Our sense is, across the board -— in the sciences, the social sciences and the humanities — each of the new ladder and instructional faculty members that we’ve brought in has been provided with the right kind of central introduction to the institution through faculty orientation and then with the right kind of mentorship in their individual department,” Gendler said.
Shopping period, however, was a challenge for some of the new professors. Grace Kao, a new professor of sociology, said she was “not a fan” of shopping period, and two other professors, Messeri and Turner, also said they found navigating Yale’s course selection process to be a challenge.
Three new senior hires — John Lafferty, who came this fall, as well as Vidvuds Ozolins and Dragomir Radev, who both arrived last January — have panned out especially well for Yale. Gendler noted that all three are teaching large groups of undergraduates in courses that were not offered before. Radev said he has 206 students in his Artificial Intelligence class this semester, making it the largest computer science class by enrollment.
“Interest in AI, NLP and Machine Learning is evident at all universities, but these numbers are staggering for Yale, given the smaller size of the computer science department compared to our peers,” Radev said.
The University hired two new senior faculty in the Ethnicity, Race and Migration department. Salovey promised in November 2015 to hire four new faculty members who study the “histories, lives and cultures of unrepresented and underrepresented communities,” and Gendler confirmed that these two hires came in response to Salovey’s initiative.
Daniel HoSang, professor of American Studies and Ethnicity, Race and Migration, said since coming to Yale, he has encountered a “remarkable” level of intellectual energy and ambition on campus.
There is a lot of difficult work ahead on intellectual, political and structural issues, HoSang added, “but the moment seems rich with possibility.”
Other faculty hires also signaled their excitement to expand beyond traditional topics in their disciplines to meet student demand. History professor Deborah Coen — the new chair of Yale’s Program in History of Science, History of Medicine — said HSHM has “vigorously supported” calls for more teaching on issues of race, gender and social justice. When first interviewing at Yale, she told the search committee that her primary goal for the discipline was to develop a “truly global” undergraduate curriculum that conveys the significance of intellectual traditions beyond Europe and North America.
But for HoSang and Ana Ramos-Zayas ’90 — a professor of American Studies, Ethnicity, Race and Migration and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality studies — stepping into new positions this year has taken on a special meaning.
“This is a position that emerged very organically and in a very grassroots way because it really was out of student’s interests, concerns, demands. So from that perspective it does feel like the position carries a different kind of weight,” Ramos-Zayas said.
There are five new faculty in the Economics Department, and several majors interviewed said they were grateful for the influx of new professors and the new expertise they bring to the department.
“The arrival of new Econ faculty has substantially broadened the topics covered and created new opportunities for students to conduct research with world-leading professors,” said Pranam Dey ’18. “I’m taking professor Zilibotti’s ‘Growth and Macroeconomics’ course this semester, and it’s been an incredible learning experience, especially since he’s so renowned in the field.”
The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences was founded in 1847 and is the oldest graduate school in North America.
Britton O’Daly | firstname.lastname@example.org
Correction, Oct. 16: A previous version of this article incorrectly used the pronoun “she” to refer to philosophy professor Robin Dembroff. In fact, the professor’s preferred pronoun is “they.”